Obama’s press conference says much about him – and us

Summary:  This is another post about the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which vividly illustrates America’s dysfunctional OODA loop — increasingly contaminated by ignorance and hysteria.  At the end are links to previous chapters of this saga.

This is sad, that the President of the world’s most powerful nation must perform such acrobatics.  Pretend to hands-on management of things beyond his competence.  Pretend to take responsibility for something over which he has no control.  The Kabuki of face time at disaster sites, photo ops wearing a grave expression.

We expect — even require — these things to feed our dreams of an omnipotent leader.  Dreams suitable for sheep — not citizens.  If we whine long and loudly enough, perhaps someone on a white horse will come along to take on the burden of governing ourselves.

Given that Obama has to dance for us, he did a nice job.  Still, critics carp about his actions, inaction, or style no matter what he does (as in this example).  As in this excerpt from a 27 May 2010 press conference.

The American people should know that from the moment this disaster began, the federal government has been in charge of the response effort. As far as I’m concerned, BP is responsible for this horrific disaster, and we will hold them fully accountable on behalf of the United States as well as the people and communities victimized by this tragedy. We will demand that they pay every dime they owe for the damage they’ve done and the painful losses that they’ve caused. And we will continue to take full advantage of the unique technology and expertise they have to help stop this leak.

But make no mistake: BP is operating at our direction. Every key decision and action they take must be approved by us in advance. I’ve designated Admiral Thad Allen — who has nearly four decades of experience responding to such disasters — as the National Incident Commander, and if he orders BP to do something to respond to this disaster, they are legally bound to do it. So, for example, when they said they would drill one relief well to stem this leak we demanded a backup and ordered them to drill two. And they are in the process of drilling two.

As we devise strategies to try and stop this leak, we’re also relying on the brightest minds and most advanced technology in the world. We’re relying on a team of scientists and engineers from our own national laboratories and from many other nations — a team led by our Energy Secretary and Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Stephen Chu. And we’re relying on experts who’ve actually dealt with oil spills from across the globe, though none this challenging.

The federal government is also directing the effort to contain and clean up the damage from the spill — which is now the largest effort of its kind in U.S. history. In this case, the federal, state, and local governments have the resources and expertise to play an even more direct role in the response effort.

… There have been areas where there have been disagreements, and I’ll give you 2 examples. Initially on this top kill, there were questions in terms of how effective it could be, but also what were the risks involved, because we’re operating at such a pressurized level, a mile underwater and in such frigid temperatures, that the reactions of various compounds and various approaches had to be calibrated very carefully. That’s when I sent Steven Chu down, the Secretary of Energy, and he brought together a team, basically a brain trust, of some of the smartest folks we have at the National Labs and in academia to essentially serve as a oversight board with BP engineers and scientists in making calculations about how much mud could you pour down, how fast, without risking potentially the whole thing blowing.

So in that situation you’ve got the federal government directly overseeing what BP is doing, and Thad Allen is giving authorization when finally we feel comfortable that the risks of attempting a top kill, for example, are sufficiently reduced that it needs to be tried.

I already mentioned a second example, which is they wanted to drill one relief well. The experience has been that when you drill one relief well, potentially you keep on missing the mark. And so it’s important to have two to maximize the speed and effectiveness of a relief well.

Is this pitiful or idiotic?

Question:  {T}o the many people in the Gulf who, as you said, are angry and frustrated and feel somewhat abandoned, what do you say about whether your personal involvement, your personal engagement, has been as much as it should be either privately or publicly?

Posts about the Deepwater Horizon disaster on the FM website

  1. Valuable background information about oil slicks: excerpts from Science, 2 May 2010
  2. Important background information about the oil spill (an example of real journalism), 2 May 2010
  3. Sources of reliable information about the Gulf Oil Spill, 4 May 2010
  4. We know what happened at the Deepwater Horizon rig. Here’s why it happened., 5 May 2010
  5. We’re at a key point in the Gulf Oil spill, while urban legends breed and circulate among the credulous, 7 May 2010
  6. About the invisible oil spill – and the chemicals that made it disappear, 14 May 2010
  7. About the long-term effect of giant oil spills, 17 May 2010
  8. It’s a national emergency, so an opportunity to watch much of America get hysterical, 27 May 2010
  9. Science: “Gulf Spill Big But Not Enormous, Yet”, 29 May 2010
  10. Let’s seal the Gulf oil well by using atomic weapons!, 29 May 2010

Posts about the American spirit, the American soul

  1. America’s Most Dangerous Enemy, 1 March 2006
  2. Diagnosing the eagle, chapter IV – Alienation, 13 January 2008
  3. Americans, now a subservient people (listen to the Founders sigh in disappointment), 20 July 2008
  4. de Tocqueville warns us not to become weak and servile, 21 July 2008
  5. A philosphical basis for the Batman saga, 23 July 2008
  6. The American spirit speaks: “Baa, Baa, Baa”, 5 August 2008
  7. We’re Americans, hear us yell: “baa, baa, baa”, 6 August 2008
  8. The intelligentsia takes easy steps to abandoning America, 19 August 2008
  9. Symptoms of a fever afflicting America’s culture, 5 November 2008
  10. All we have to fear is our optimism, 12 November 2008
  11. The corruption of a nation is usually hidden, but sometimes becomes visible, 21 November 2008
  12. The war for America’s soul, 23 December 2008 — Our changing attitudes to “It’s a Wonderful Life”
  13. This crisis will prove that Americans are not sheep (unless we are), 8 January 2008
  14. About security theater, a daily demonstration that Americans are sheep, 25 January 2009
  15. We close our eyes to torture by our government. The Brits are stronger., 9 April 2009
  16. Sources of inspiration for America’s renewal, 23 April 2009 – The Law of Equivalent Exchange
  17. So many Americans approve of torture; what does this tell us about America?, 30 April 2009
  18. Dispatches from the front lines in the war for America’s soul, 11 May 2009
  19. Are we citizens? Or peasants?, 21 May 2009
  20. A famous guest speaker visits the FM site to tell us that we are not weak — we are strong, 8 June 2008
  21. A great artist died today. We can gain inspiration from his words., 26 June 2009
  22. A wonderful and important speech about liberty, 23 July 2009
  23. Our government does torture, but it is just like the treatment of young reporters by newspapers, 16 February 2010
  24. Know thyself, America, 2 March 2010
  25. Reading about American torturers is a bummer. Let’s close our eyes and pretend it didn’t happen, and will not happen again., 22 March 2010


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